Backstage Blog

Playwright Insight: Paul-David Halem

PiP logo

Playwrights in Process: New Play Festival is Cygnet Theatre’s annual festival of readings of new plays presented in collaboration with Playwrights Project. The festival introduces San Diego playgoers to new works by local artists and also offers a series of workshops designed to introduce curious audiences to the art of playwriting. In addition, the three-day festival at the Old Town Theatre includes opportunities for informal forums to meet the playwrights.

With the festival around the corner, we asked our playwrights to tell us how the process is going for them. Here’s playwright Paul-David Halem talking about his play, Mannequins.

Paul-David Halem

Paul-David Halem

How has working with theatre artists from Cygnet Theatre and Playwrights Project helped your writing for Playwrights in Process?  

I have been truly fortunate to have Derek Livingston as both my Director and Dramaturg.  He has read my play no less than 7 times, and each time has offered wonderful suggestions for the rewriting process.  I have a wonderful cast of actors with Jason Heil as the lead who have brought my words to life.  All of the actors also have been helpful with suggestions and comments.  This has been the most nurturing experience I have ever had.   There is no doubt in my mind that “Mannequins” has reached a level that could not have been achieved without their generous help. My heartfelt thanks to Derek Livingston and the wonderful cast he has assembled -  Jason Heil, Whitney Thomas, Cameron Sullivan, and Linda Libby.

On his inspiration for the play:  I’ve often been accused of having a warped sense of humor.  As for my inspiration – it is getting to have my characters have outrageous experiences that I would never get to have in my suburban existence.

About Mannequins: Life is more interesting if it’s not what it seems to be. Fade in on a successful actor trying to read a hot new film script. Phone calls, delusional friends, and a hunky burglar disrupt his plans…as the mannequins watch.

Click here for more insight from Paul-David on his play and Playwrights in Process.

See Mannequins on Sunday, Nov 9 at 7:00pm. View complete information on workshops and plays:http://www.cygnettheatre.com/connect/playwrights.php

A huge thanks to Festival sponsors Bill and Judy Garrett.

I’ve been Advocated!

Jason HeilWhen Sean Murray offered me a part in Noises Off, he didn’t have to go very far – he just strolled the ten feet from his office to the “Development Suite”, as we affectionately call the corner office that houses Development Director Veronica Murphy and myself. I casually accepted and continued working on my grant proposal, while internally turning cartwheels!

I’ve been a part of the Cygnet team for over a year and a half, but this will be my first time appearing on the Cygnet stage, and I’m honored to be joining such an amazing cast in a production helmed by Sean. As Veronica’s part-time right hand, my workload typically consists of assisting with processing donations, grant writing, donor appreciations, special events, and of course, making our morning coffee! For the past few years, when my Cygnet day has ended, I drove off to theatres in Coronado, San Diego, Solana Beach, and Vista to do my acting and directing work. Now my commute consists of walking to the rehearsal space in the back of our offices!

Several times a year, Cygnet sends out various mailings. When we do, we send out a call to volunteers, I make some extra coffee, and we have a great time folding letters, stuffing envelopes, and adding labels and stamps. (Quick plug, we will be doing a mailing this week and need volunteers on Wednesday, June 10 from 9:30am-1pm – contact me at jason@cygnettheatre.com if you want to join us!). It’s always a fun time chatting about theatre with board members, donors and other people who just want to help Cygnet out.

Recently, I came into work to find out that I had been Advocated! One of those volunteers (with whom I had debated the pros and cons of San Diego, New York and London theatre) had chosen to sponsor me through Cygnet’s Artist Advocate program. Thanks, Marilyn!

Jason Heil (right) with Judith Harris and Bill Schmidt

Jason Heil (right) with Judith Harris and Bill Schmidt

This program allows donors to direct their donations to an artist of their choice (actors, directors, designers and stage managers). All monies go directly toward the artist’s salary. Since its inception, Cygnet has made paying a competitive wage to artists a priority. This is made possible through the support of our donors!

As I write this, we are nearing the end of our second week of rehearsals. We’re at that bumpy stage where we’re still trying to remember all of the lines; where we’re juggling plates of sardines, slamming doors that aren’t there yet, pretending to run up and down stairs that are really taped squares on the floor, all the while trying to create real people who are experiencing real chaos. It’s maddening, frustrating, overwhelming. In other words, it’s theatre! And I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.

So, a big thank you to Arthur & Marilyn Neumann, who helped make it possible for me to be a part of this wonderful production. And thank you to ALL of the Advocates who are sponsoring artists, casts, and even productions. In the Development Suite, we are always looking for new and fresh ways to thank people. Sometimes, the simplest can be the best: We could not do this without your support. Thank you.